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April 19, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Dissent within Hizbullah over Involvement in Syria - Ariel Ben Solomon (Jerusalem Post)
    Some Hizbullah members are upset over the movement's role in support of Syrian President Assad in the wake of casualties it has suffered in the regions of Damascus and Homs, according to a report on Wednesday in Asharq al-Awsat.
    The criticism is mostly coming from families of Hizbullah fighters in Syria, but "it has started to infiltrate the ranks of the fighters themselves, with some of them refusing to fight," according to unidentified sources.
    NOW Lebanon reported Wednesday that four Hizbullah fighters killed in Syria were buried on Tuesday in Nabatiya in southern Lebanon.
    Many Hizbullah fighters have died in Syria and are being held at the Sheikh Ragheb Harb Hospital in Nabatiya. Hizbullah is reported to be burying the fighters in installments so as not to draw attention.

Israel to Buy $2.67 Billion in Fuel from U.S. - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    The Israeli government is seeking to buy 864 million gallons of jet and diesel fuel from the U.S., at a cost of $2.67 billion, the U.S. Department of Defense has announced.
    Israel has been buying jet fuel from the U.S. for years in connection with the American foreign aid program. In 2010, Israel bought about $2 billion in jet fuel.

Israel Releases Terminally Ill Palestinian Prisoner - Raanan Ben-Zur (Ynet News)
    President Shimon Peres approved Thursday the release of Palestinian security prisoner Mohammed al-Taj due to medical reasons, in accordance with the security echelon's advice. Al-Taj had served about two-thirds of his 14-year sentence.
    Last month, a Palestinian administrative detainee died from complications of cancer while in Israeli custody. This was followed by riots across the West Bank.

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Death of Jordanian Policeman Who Died Guarding Israelis Fuels Threats - Adam Nicky (Media Line)
    The death of a Jordanian tourism policeman who died while guarding visiting Israelis has evoked threats by members of the victim's tribe to abduct or kill Israeli tourists.
    Jordanian police have determined that Sgt. Ibrahim Jarah drowned in a pool at the Maeen Hot Springs in Madaba, which he visited with Israeli tourists earlier this month.
    His family insists that he was killed by the Israelis. His brother, Mohammed Jarah, warned that his tribe will kill ten Israelis in retaliation for his brother's death.
    Anti-Israel sentiment runs high in Jordan, despite the 1994 peace treaty.

Islamist-Held Town a Bellwether for Syria's Rebellion - Balint Szlanko (World Politics Review)
    In the provincial capital of Raqqa in eastern Syria, a black flag bearing a verse from the Quran flies over the main square - a flag often associated with Sunni Islamist extremists.
    Raqqa is the first provincial capital to be fully controlled by rebel groups, all of them Islamist: Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Wahda al-Tahrir al-Islamiya, and Jabhat al-Nusra.
    On April 6, rebel fighters arrested two young women for not wearing the all-covering hijab and for being unsupervised in the company of a young man. The three were brought before the Shariah court, but were released.
    Nevertheless, the affair prompted a demonstration the following day, with hundreds turning out, forcing the court to close.

Israeli Voted President of Yale Student Union (Ynet News)
    Daniel Avraham, an Israeli honor student, has been elected president of the Yale University student union.
    Avraham, 24, is a former Israel Defense Forces intelligence officer.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Dempsey: U.S. Might Be Unable to Secure All Syrian Chemical Stocks - Diane Barnes
    The top U.S. military official on Wednesday said he is not fully confident that armed intervention could secure Syria's entire chemical arsenal. "They've been moving it and the number of sites is quite numerous," U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee. (NTI-National Journal)
        See also Britain, France Claim Syria Used Chemical Weapons - Colum Lynch
    Britain and France have informed the UN there is credible evidence that Syria has fired chemical weapons more than once in the past several months, according to senior UN-based diplomats. They have detailed at least three instances of suspected chemical weapons used in or around Aleppo, Homs, and Damascus since last December. The corroborating evidence includes nerve agent soil samples, witness interviews, opposition sources, and accounts by medical experts who observed victims' symptoms.
        The Syrian government claimed that opposition elements fired chemical weapons at Syrian forces on March 19, killing 26 people, including Syrian troops. European diplomats claim the victims were hit by a Syrian shell that missed an opposition target. (Foreign Policy)
        See also Netanyahu: Israel Ready to Act on Syria Weapons
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the BBC that Israel has a right to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands in Syria. He said: "The main arms of concern to us are the arms that are already in Syria - these are anti-aircraft weapons, these are chemical weapons and other very, very dangerous weapons that could be game changers."
        "They will change the conditions, the balance of power in the Middle East. They could present a terrorist threat on a worldwide scale. It is definitely our interest to defend ourselves, but we also think it is in the interest of other countries....We don't seek military confrontation, but we are prepared to defend ourselves if the need arises."  (BBC News)
  • U.S. Arms Deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE Is Near - Thom Shanker
    The U.S. Defense Department is expected to finalize a $10 billion arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates next week. The objective, one senior administration official said, was "not just to boost Israel's capabilities, but also to boost the capabilities of our Persian Gulf partners so they, too, would be able to address the Iranian threat - and also provide a greater network of coordinated assets around the region to handle a range of contingencies." Those other security risks, officials said, include the civil war in Syria - a country with chemical weapons - and militant violence in the Sinai Peninsula.
        Israel would buy new missiles designed to take out an adversary's air-defense radars, as well as advanced radars for its own warplanes, new refueling tanker planes and - in the first sale to any foreign military - the V-22 Osprey troop transport aircraft. The UAE would buy 26 F-16 warplanes, a package that could reach $5 billion alone, along with precision missiles to reach distant ground targets. Saudi Arabia would buy the same class of advanced missile.
        The expectation is that the arms sale, which was outlined to Congress on Thursday, will encounter little opposition from lawmakers, but Congressional officials said members were seeking assurances that the package was in keeping with American policy to guarantee Israel's "qualitative military edge."  (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • East Jerusalem Terror Cell Charged with Planning to Abduct Israelis - Lilach Shoval
    Indictments were filed on Wednesday against members of a terror cell, Arab residents of east Jerusalem who were arrested in March, who conspired to kidnap and murder an Israeli in order to steal his weapon. According to the Israel Security Agency, three cell members picked up a Jewish hitchhiker, but upon learning that he was not carrying a weapon, decided to let him go. The cell also planned to carry out a terrorist attack on the Temple Mount, including firing weapons at Israeli security personnel stationed there.
        The leader of the cell, Nur Hamdan, 25, confessed that he had planned to carry out an attack on the Temple Mount "to protect Al-Aqsa mosque." He said he had been inspired by YouTube videos detailing terror attacks in Jerusalem. (Israel Hayom)
  • Behind the Rocket Attacks from Sinai - Ron Ben-Yishai
    This week rockets were fired from Sinai at Eilat. Terror groups in Gaza prefer to have the Salafist groups launch rockets from Sinai and not directly from Gaza to prevent criticism from Egypt. Egypt is pressuring Hamas to fully abide by the understandings reached with Israel - under Egypt's mediation - following the fighting in November. Hamas complies, since it is highly dependent on Egypt. However, rebellious organizations, mainly Salafist, still fire rockets at Israel. These attacks are followed by Hamas arrests of members of these organizations. This is the reason Salafist and Jihadist leaders in Gaza are increasing their pressure on their members in Sinai to launch attacks on Israel.
        Egypt's army and security forces are trying to fight the armed terror groups in Sinai, as well as curtail the smuggling of arms to Gaza. So far they have not been very successful. Egypt has managed to more or less maintain the rule of law in the area of Sinai's east coast, where the Bedouin Tarabin tribe wants to make sure that tourism is not hurt, but in central Sinai, Egyptian forces are all but helpless. The rocket attack on Eilat this week apparently emanated from central Sinai. Israel and Egypt may have to reach a secret agreement in order to stop the terror emanating from Sinai. (Ynet News)
        See also Gazan Salafist: Rocket Attacks on Eilat Part of Ongoing Struggle - Aaron Kalman
    The rockets fired at Eilat were part of an ongoing war against Israel that will not stop, warned Salafist Gaza cleric Abu al-Ayna al-Ansari, Asharq Al-Awsat reported Thursday. The Mujahideen Shura Council of Jerusalem, which claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack, was not party to the truce agreements signed by the Gaza leadership, he said, and vowed to keep up the jihad, or holy war, against Israel. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Syria's Six Simultaneous Conflicts - Rami G. Khouri
    The war in Syria is a multilayered conflict, comprising at least six separate battles taking place at the same time. First, it is a domestic citizen revolt against the Assad family regime that has ruled Syria for 43 years. The second layer of conflict can be described as conservative versus radical, or capitalist versus socialist, or royalist versus republican, or Islamo-monarchist versus Arab nationalist, or pro-Western versus anti-Western. The third layer of conflict is the old Iranian-Arab rivalry, recently also often defined as a Shiite-Sunni rivalry.
        The fourth conflict is the renewed but more limited version of the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia. The fifth conflict is the tension between the centralized modern Arab security state and the forces of fragmentation along ethnic, religious, sectarian, national and tribal lines. The sixth is between the forces of al-Qaeda-inspired Salafist fanatic militants and mainstream opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood or the more secular Syrian National Opposition Coalition. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
        See also Global Jihad in Syria: Disputes Amidst a Common Goal - Yoram Schweitzer and Gal Toren (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Israel-Turkey Reconciliation Still Remote - Oded Eran
    The apology made by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will not put an end to tensions with the Turkish government or avert future conflicts. Even if all the Turkish preconditions regarding compensation and the Gaza blockade are met, the problems will not end and tension will increase. Given the unpredictability of Turkish-Israeli relations, it may not be wise for Israeli companies, or even others wishing to sell Israeli natural gas, to use Turkey as a transit route to Europe - and become totally dependent on its government.
        Until 2009, Israeli pilots trained over the remote eastern and hilly terrain of Turkey. Since the deterioration in bilateral relations, however, Israel has moved such pilot training primarily to Greece. Stronger relations between Israel, Greece and Cyprus will not be viewed positively in Ankara. The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and the EU, is a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (National Interest)
  • Western Influence on Arab Militaries: Pounding Square Pegs into Round Roles - Norvell B. DeAtkine
    The demonstrated ineffectiveness of Arab armies in conventional warfare does not apply to the parameters of unconventional warfare, where insurgents displayed initiative and imagination. A number of factors account for this difference. The Arab guerilla usually had leadership sharpened by battle as well as experience and exuded the confidence that motivated others to follow him - as opposed to a conventional unit commander most likely picked by the regime for political reasons. Moreover, the Arab guerilla was apt to be with those of his own ethnic group, clan, or tribe. The unconventional Arab soldier is fighting within his element with people he trusts.
        The malaise within the Arab culture requires solutions from within, and attempts to graft Western culture onto Arab society have failed. Some have seen the reserved response of the militaries in Tunisia and Egypt toward demonstrators as a consequence of U.S. and Western influence. Unfortunately this has little validity. It was far more a result of military leaders correctly assessing where their best interests lie.
        Imparting Western values and soldierly ethos to the Arab armies has been, as someone once observed, like teaching dance steps without the music. They memorize the steps but never get the tempo or the rhythm of Western military traditions. U.S. Army Col. Norvell B. DeAtkine, an Arab specialist, was Director of Middle East Studies at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. He has dealt with Arab militaries for over 40 years. (GLORIA Center-IDC Herzliya)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel Honors Outstanding Soldiers on Independence Day - Greer Fay Cashman
    120 outstanding IDF soldiers were honored Tuesday at a ceremony at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, including immigrants from the U.S., Canada, Ethiopia, France, Argentina, Ukraine, Russia, India, Italy, Uzbekistan, Poland, Holland and Georgia. Those honored included 37 women soldiers, as well as Bedouin and Druse soldiers. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Jewish Doctor Serving in Druse Unit Wins President's Award - Ariel Ben Solomon
    Lt. Gilad Spiegel, 28, one of the soldiers who received the President's Award for Excellence this year, serves in the IDF's Herev ("Sword") infantry battalion, an Arabic-speaking (mostly Druse) unit. "After I see the great and professional job they do, it is a privilege for me to tell others about this unit and the Druse people and how they serve faithfully," he said. Courage and honor are very important for the Druse fighter - if you give honor you get it back, he said.
        Spiegel's battalion donated the most blood in the IDF last year. In addition, last year his medical unit won the yearly competition in the entire IDF Medical Corps. His medical unit even came up with a new technique for carrying injured soldiers using a rifle strap, allowing the soldier to keep his hands free. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Why Are Israelis So Damn Happy? - Tiffanie Wen
    A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that Israelis recover from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more quickly than people of other Western nations. The study compared people who experienced 18 months of terror during the Second Intifada to New Yorkers after 9/11 and found that the amount of PTSD in Israel was similar to New York. However, one and two months after the attack, PTSD was significantly higher in the U.S. than it was during the Second Intifada.
        Other studies have shown that while the level of anxiety in Israel is typically higher than other Western nations, the level of clinical anxiety remains very low, even during periods of immense violence. So even though Israelis are painfully aware of the never-ending threats, they're also braver because of them. By experiencing more anxiety on a daily basis, they've become inoculated against bad things when they do occur, and habituate to them rapidly. Being raised in Israel lends to a unique mental capacity for overcoming hardship that is unlike any other Western country in the world. (Daily Beast)

Canadian Foreign Minister's Visit to East Jerusalem Was No Provocation. It Was Brave - Einat Wilf and Noah Slepkov (Globe and Mail-Canada)

  • The simple fact, now seen clearly by Canada's leadership, is that the Palestinians are not prepared to make the difficult, but necessary, decisions that would end the conflict and are therefore using any possible excuse to avoid negotiations. In the past, the Canadian leadership often took the comfortable path of least resistance by voting with the majority of countries in international forums.
  • The current leadership of Canada has chosen the far more difficult and courageous path of focusing on resolving the conflict by facing reality and truth. Granted, this means that Canada no longer enjoys the comfort of the majority, but it does mean that Canada is now a leading nation rather than a follower.
  • Foreign Minister John Baird's meetings with Israeli officials in east Jerusalem is in no way a provocation. After all, when the UN General Assembly voted in 1947 to support partition of Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab, it also voted to leave Jerusalem, Bethlehem and their surroundings as belonging to neither.
  • In the 66 years since, the world has recognized neither Jordanian, Israeli or Palestinian control of any part of this area and has maintained that the status of Jerusalem will be determined in negotiations that end the conflict. As long as the status of Jerusalem has not been negotiated, diplomats and leaders from around the world should be free to meet their counterparts in both east and west Jerusalem.
  • Rather than negotiating with Israel over the status of Jerusalem, the Palestinians are conducting a global campaign to argue that Israel is trying to make Jerusalem Jewish, neglecting to accept that east Jerusalem, and especially the ancient holy city of Jerusalem, was once the capital of ancient Israel, millennia before the Arab conquest of the city. Only under Israeli control has Jerusalem remained a city open to all peoples, of all religions, to practice their religion freely.
  • Mr. Baird's visit held up a mirror to the Palestinians, that tactics of delay, distraction, endless escape from tough decisions, and avoiding negotiations and serious assumption of responsibility will no longer find a ready audience among those who truly care about achieving peace.

    Former Knesset member Einat Wilf holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Cambridge. Noah Slepkov serves as an Adjunct Fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem.
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